Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Walk Around the Capitol

I had a few hours to wander around Capitol Hill on Wednesday; after a breakfast meeting and before boarding a bus back to Annapolis. A colleague and I played "tourists in ties" as we walked around the Capitol, past the Supreme Court and Library of Congress, and down the Mall a short way.

We walked around the new National Museum of the American Indian. It's a very cool-looking building, with a front designed to look like the sort of southwestern cliff areas where the Anasazi might have lived. Out front, there is a created wetland that mimics the look and feel of the Chesapeake region.

Looking at the American Indian Museum from the new outdoor garden at the US Botanic Garden, you almost lose the sense that you are in a city. It looks like a pretty cool place. I was curious, but we were too early for most of the public buildings to be open. A colleague from Arizona, who visits DC fairly often, has been inside and says it is very nice. I'll try to get back some time when I have more time.

We walked up the Mall to the old Smithsonian Castle, which was open that early. It features a very nice garden, between the Castle and the entrances to the African American Museum and an art gallery. We took a turn through the sculpture garden and walked briefly through the Botanic Garden, but found too many groups of small, scattering students.

We finished with a visit to the several statues that sit down the hill from the Capitol Building, facing the Mall. There's an equestrian statue of General US Grant, staring west towards the Washington Monument. There is a wide, shallow pool, steps and a terrace. There are lions on either side of the general, lying regally. There is also a group of bronze Civil-War soldiers in the midst of battle. One has fallen, another leads the charge.

The Mall and the Capitol are a wonderful center for our nation. There s a great deal of history just sitting there; it can be easy to take it for granted. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Washington DC and we used to wander around down there fairly often. As a small child, we went with our folks. In school, there were field trips. As a teen, there was the bus and later the Metro keeping us within easy reach of the Mall and the museums.

I feel like I know the place, and always have, but it is constantly changing and being updated. It's important to re-visit from time to time.

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